Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Friday unveiled the statue of Bharat Ratna and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at The Ridge Ground in Shimla on the occasion of his 96th birth anniversary.

Addressing ‘Atal Samriti Samaroh’ on the occasion of ‘Sushashan Divas’ organised by the State Language, Art and Culture Department at Gaiety Theatre, Thakur said Vajpaye was a statesman and a great personality who due to his politics of principles, emerged as a statesman with national appeal.

“Vajpayee was a legendary and visionary leader who defined highest values of leadership and his contribution for the development of the country would be remembered for the years to come. Vajpayee was an orator par excellence who had the ability to cast a spell on the audience and even during some of the most tense moments in Parliament, he succeeded to defuse the situation with utmost ease,” he added.

Thakur said despite being away from active politics for over a decade at the time of his demise, lakhs of youth joined the last journey of Vajpayee which shows his deep impact in the lives of the people of the country.

He further stated that the nation was first for Vajpayee and therefore regarded as the true statesman by people of the country. Vajpayee as Prime Minister of the country changed India forever in many aspects and he as a Prime Minister for six years between 1998 and 2004, was credited with reviving India’s glory in the global economy.

Further, it was due to the strong willpower of Vajpayee that India become nuclear power and PM Gram Sadak Yojana, a vision of Vajpayee led to rural connectivity projects gaining in the country pace which resulted in all the panchayats of the state getting connected by roads, he said.

The Chief Minister said the unveiling of the statue of Vajpayee at the Ridge today was a tribute to this great son of mother India.

“The 18 feet statue constructed by spending an amount of Rs 1.08 crore is also the token of love and affection from the people of the state towards this great statesman. He always believed in values-based politics and would always be remembered and respected for his simplicity, humanity and benevolence,” he said.

He added Vajpayee shared a special connection with Himachal which he fondly called his ‘second home’ and despite his busy schedules Atal Bihari Vajpayee would never miss an opportunity to come to Himachal and spend a few days here.

“Vajpayee used to spend a few days as usual at his home in Prini village near Manali in Kullu district and enjoyed the green environs, met villagers over their small little demands, held poetry sessions. With his simplicity and humanity, he ruled the hearts of millions of people. He always believed in valuesbased politics and would always be remembered and respected for his simplicity, humanity and benevolence,” he added.

State Urban development minister Suresh Bhardwaj, Technical Education Minister Ram Lal Markanda, Shimla MP and State BJP chief Suresh Kashyap, Chief Whip Narender Bragta also paid tributes to Vajpayee among others on the occasion.